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Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a technique of stimulating a drilled well to make it produce more. It applies pressure underground to fracture rocks and release trapped hydrocarbons. High-pressure fluids are injected into the bored well rock to create cracks in the deep rock formations. This causes subterranean fractures and frees up natural gas and crude petroleum. But, the fractures need to remain open to allow the hydrocarbons to be pumped out for refinement.

Proppants are materials that keep a hydraulic fracture point open to allow more continuous extraction and flow of a target site. As their name suggests, proppants are used to “prop open” those hydraulic fractures, and they are pumped downhole with a mixture of fluids, gels, foams, or slickwater (a solution of chemicals and water typically used to fracture shale stratum). (See Figure 1)

Figure 1–Proppants like the ceramic materials from Saint-Gobain provide high stress structural supports in fractured rocks but still allow gas or oil to be extracted. Note the micro-fine and even consistency.Figure 1–Proppants like the ceramic materials from Saint-Gobain provide high stress structural supports in fractured rocks but still allow gas or oil to be extracted. Note the micro-fine and even consistency.

The industry recognizes two main types of proppants for well-focused down-hole conditions. These are sand and man-made ceramic based materials.

However, the use of these proppants is changing towards more environmentally friendly solutions. The key to this is the recent change in the OSHA crystalline silica regulation that limits the amount of respirable crystalline silica present on the hydraulic fracturing sites. As a result of this operators are evaluating different dust control measures including use of crystalline silica free proppants. This is increasingly more important since the use of proppants per well has increased ten-fold from 2004 to 2014.

The introduction of large-scale fracturing in oil-bearing shale formations is creating the need for more targeted solutions. This becomes increasingly more important as productivity takes the forefront of profitability. Once a well is drilled and all of the equipment is in place, bottom line or return-on-investment will depend on how productive the well is. As a result, the more efficient and effective a proppant is, the more sustained output a well can deliver for a longer period of time.

Saint-Gobain Solutions

Years of research and experience have yielded a family of proppant formulations best suited for specific conditions. Saint-Gobain products such as BauxLite® provide a lightweight proppant similar to clay or sand, but with higher endurance and crush resistance. Similarly, the patented VersaLite® has the same composition as BauxLite®, but utilizes Saint-Gobain’s proven proprietary sieve distribution. These are the only crystalline silica-free lightweight proppants on the market.

Intermediate strengths such as the InterProp® and VersaProp® are both made from bauxite ore and are effective and efficient solutions. These are stronger than the lightweight proppants and deliver higher conductivity over a wide range of stresses.

High-strength Sintered Bauxite and UltraProp® are best suited for deep wells. In these instances, increased pressure and temperature require higher proppant strength in order to deliver better and longer-lasting results. The Titan™ proppant offers the highest strength, making these the ideal choice for the deepest and hottest wells.

Saint-Gobain is committed to service excellence and has made it standard practice to track the performance of its proppants in each specific well. By doing so, Saint-Gobain is able to confirm and verify for customers that the investment in the right proppant can deliver greater oil or gas production, as well as yield higher cash flow. Saint-Gobain’s “Well Worth It” microsite offers varying case studies and analyses.

Saint-Gobain helps demonstrate how to calculate the cash flow per-well and per-project using its analytic experience. Example tutorials are available online at their website (see Analysis of Williams County Site in North Dakota for an example). Several other well-to-well comparisons can be examined online as well.

Achieving Maximum ROI

Selecting the right proppant can mean the difference between a well that is continuously and safely producing and one that fails prematurely. Higher profitability comes from a well that is producing at a high rate. This delivers the best ROI for each individual well, translating to a maximized ROI per site.

Saint-Gobain Proppants has provided a wealth of information that demonstrates the effectiveness of their products and services. They are also an excellent source of information and learning. Let their experience work for you. http://www.proppants.saint-gobain.com/.